George turned 7 recently. When given the option of where to have the party he chose an out-of-home place. I may have tried to sell him on that option a bit, as I did not have to clean the house, there was a lot of room to run, and most ‘games’ could be basic, giving them ideas of what to do, then letting them run and play. Using their imaginations. :gasp: My kind of party.
There was some planning involved but not a lot. We also were not planning on spending a lot for the party. Now, “a lot” is very subjective. We could have spent less by having it a the park, though with the weather being down right cold I’m pretty sure no one would have come. We could have it at home, like years past, and invite family/pseudo family only.
The last option was my thought till I considered that George has been planning this for 10 months. He is very much a social creature, something this inverted Mama has trouble understanding. So we chose to put him before the little bit of extra money it would cost to rent the gym at a local school.
Knowing we had a large space, decorating was out of the question. Instead, I had George choose a theme. The cake and games would be focused on this, as would the invitations and Thank You cards.
Using a Dogs & Cats theme, here is what we did and a few ways we saved money:
Homemade themed cake/cupcakes – I had grand ideas of cakes in my head, all being extremely difficult and fully worthy of a show on T.V. After a few moments of freaking out, I took to the internet. A quick search of “dog theme birthday idea” lead me to a Pinterest board that had many very doable ideas.
I found two different cake ideas, presented them to George and away we went. He chose to have a Dog Bowl Cake. I did a bit more searching and found directions. This was probably the easiest cake I have ever ‘decorated’. It was also tasty. FYI: if you use cereal, do not put it on the night before as the cereal will get soggy. Also, kids will stick their fingers in it to see what it is, not realizing there is icing underneath. 🙂
George also said he wanted to have cupcakes, in addition to a cake. While looking through the same Pinterest board, I saw two different designs I liked: one for a dog and one for a cat. I showed them to George and he agreed. (This whole agreeing thing works so much better when your child has been thinking on things for 10 months AND can vocalize what it is he is wanting.)
The ‘Dog’ cupcakes were easy to make and I would do it again. Again, I would make these the morning of, or else the cookies will get soggy.
The ‘Cat’ cupcakes turned out to be the hardest. Tip: it is easier to cut a marshmallow with a warm knife. Run you knife under, or dip it in, hot water before trying to cut. If there is marshmallow on your knife, clean it off before starting on the next one. This quick tip will save you from wanting to throw the cupcakes across the room out of frustration and smooshed marshmallows.
Themed snacks – again I presented George with choices. I was afraid the kids would get munchy, as the party was in the early afternoon. ‘Cat Nip’ was an easy fix, that could be used for our snacks at home later if it was not all eaten.
Decor and props – from the dollar store (where everything is $1). From the dog food bowl for the cake to the pet toys for games. This one stop resulted in everything we needed.
Trying to make items do double duty – decor/props are part of his gift from us, either to become his toys afterwards or be donated to local shelter, his choice. Update: he decided to keep these for his “dog”. A week before the party, I came across a stuffed dog with a bed at a local consignment sale. I knew immediatly it would be something he would love. This stuffed doggie is living the high life now, with its bed always next to George when he goes to sleep.
In case you are wondering, no worries about the local shelter, George’s school does a donation drive in the fall for them and of course we HAD to get stuff for them. As the CFO of the operation, I did limit them to one item we already had at home and one item from the store, which they bought with their own money. I may or may not have also promised helping him shop at Christmas time for the shelter.
No party favors – at first I felt odd not taking something to give to the other kids, as that seems to be the ‘thing’ to do lately. Once I put that guilt away, I remembered that we NEVER did this when I was a kid and we all survived just fine. At the party no one missed them and I am pretty sure the parents were happy not to have more stuff to cart back to their house.
Using some items we already own – I keep a tote of party items, many of which I find on sale throughout the year. I try to get solid colored items so they can be used for multiple purposes. I also took along our Frisbees and soccer balls.
Prioritizing – Leaving out some details George mentioned (we do NOT need a piñata, sorry kids), but allowing him to invite almost whomever he wishes, even his teachers. His friends are a more important aspect than those details.
Games – This is one area that I thought through, but not enough. Thankfully one of the families had a teenager who stayed and thought of a few more I had not considered. (Sorry, no pics for this as it involved a lot of kids and their faces.)
Cat, Cat, Dog – along the theme of Duck, Duck, Goose. After all, Dogs chase cats, right? The ‘Cat’ got to hold the cat toy while running around. They loved the variation.
Cat Chase – again, ‘Dogs’ chase the ‘Cats’ and try to tag them.
Another variation had the ‘Dogs’ chase the ‘Owner’ to get the squeaky dog toy. Not sure who had the most fun, the kids running or those squeaking the toy.
Fetch – yes, we played ‘Fetch’ with other people’s kids. Granted, once we threw the first few Frisbees, the kids wanted to do it themselves. This is where having several to choose from helped keep (most) squabbles down.
Be a Cat – All the kids lined up, each with a ball. On their hands and knees, they used their ‘paws’ to hit their ball several yards to another line and back.
Freeze Tag – I don’t have a cute name for this one, sorry. The ‘Dogs’ stood in the center and the ‘Cats’ had to keep away from them.
With so many active games, the break for cake and ice cream came naturally. There was also a lull about 1.5 hours into the party where the kids were just tired. This is when the teenager stepped in to help get them excited about another game. I expressed my thanks afterwards, because by this point I was also tired and out of ideas.
For all of the parties we have had for the kids, entire families are invited, not just kids their age. I like getting to know the parents and siblings, and my kids have fun with other kids of various ages. Not everyone agrees, which is how we ended up with only one other family hanging around for the party. It gave me a chance to visit with this friend, though, so I am glad they decided to stay.
Also, several of the kids were actually Jack’s age, but again we are friend with kids of all ages, so they were George’s friends as well. The one friend was a new one to me and the Mom admitted to being a bit confused as to why her child was invited, since she was not in George’s class nor grade. I explained that while her kid and George were not the same age, we encourage them to be friends with everyone. (It also helped that there were other kids her kid knew there, so it was not completely awkward for her kid. I also got a chance to talk with this mom, as I normally would not know how to even start a conversation.)
Looking back, this was my favorite party so far. George even thanked me afterwards for “having the best party ever”, without being prompted to do so. He actually did it twice. Something must have gone right then …. of course, a week later, I had to remind him to: live for today, not “when I am 8, I will ____”. At least he is forward thinking. 🙂